Venango County -- A Brief History
Venango County has a rich, colorful history which dates back to the days of the
early American settlers. A large number of today's Venango County property owners can trace their land titles back to the
original deeds which were granted to their ancestors for military service to their country in the Revolutionary War.
Franklin was chosen to be the county seat late in the eighteenth century because
of its excellent strategic location amongst several trading posts, and forts. Oil City first became a settlement in 1818 when
Cornplanter, a Seneca chief, sold the site to William Connelly and William Kinnear.
The year 1825 ushered in the birth of the industrial age in Venango County as
iron ore was discovered in the area. Within the next twenty years, more than two dozen stone blast furnaces shot up throughout
the county. Many of them, including Rockland Furnace, below Freedom Falls, Webster Furnace, located on Bear Run in Rockalnd
Township, and the Anderson and Oil Creek Furnaces still stand as testimony to one of the industries which transformed the
Venanago County has the prestigous designation as one of the four heritage regions
in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Steeped in oil history, the Oil Heritage region, the "valley that changed the world"
through the discovery of crude oil, is now formally recognized.
Ambitious plans have been set in motion to reeducate the world on the birthplace
of oil and its rich heritage. Bicycling or hiking throughout various locations in the region or visiting the different museums
for interpretive understandings of the area when oil was king will be a long remembered visit by those experiencing the Oil
On August 28, 1859, the birth of the oil industry took place when Edwin L. Drake
drilled the world's first oil well in Titusville. This lone wooden derrick soon led to a booming industry in the mountains
of Pennsylvania. In fact, only ten years after Drake's initial discovery, American oil was used around the world.
(Excerpted from Venango Economic Development Corporation's Venango County, Pa.)
VENANGO COUNTY TIME LINE
prepared by the Venango County Historical Society
For thousands of years the only people living in Venango County were the Native Americans, named
Indians by the white settlers. Their first homes were in the rocky cliffs which protected them from the rain and snow.
The French left Canada and the region of the Great Lakes to claim this part of the country for France.
Traveling by boat down the Allegheny River, they found a large rock along the shore below Franklin which contained carvings
made by the Native Americans. They buried a lead plate there, which made France's claim to the land. White settlers called
the rock, "Indian God Rock."
The first white man to live in Venango County was John Frazier, an English fur trader who built
a log cabin in what is now Franklin.
The French arrived and Frazier left his home. The French Officers lived in that house while they
were making plans to build a fort.
Dec. 4, 1753
A young officer in the British Army, George Washington, arrived in Franklin. He saw the French flag
flying over Frazier's house. He stopped and camped here and rested his horses before traveling on north. He met the French
commander and warned him to leave the region, telling him the land belonged to England. All the land which is now Pennsylvania
had been given by the King of England to William Penn so he could establish his colony there.
The French did not listen and started work on their fort, naming it Fort Machault. It was one of
several forts which the French built on the frontier and the British and French started to fight in what we know as the French
and Indian war. The French ahd made friends with many of the Native Americans and they helped them in the firht against England.
The soldiers at the French fort there, helped by the Native Americans, amde many boats down from trees cut from the forest.
They planned to take many boats down the river and attack the British at Fort Pitt (now Pittaburgh).
But in July 1759 they were losing the war and decided to flee to Canada. They burned their boats
and fort here before they left.
The British came to build Fort Venango. They lived there until 1763 when they lost their fort in
a battle with the Native Americans. The area returned to the Native Americans while the white men were busy fighting the Revolutionary
War in the east. After George Washington and the Colonists won independence from England, money was scarce and soliers were
given land in the western part of Pennsylvania to pay for the services during the war.
Soldiers came here from the new American government to build Dort Franklin as a protection for some
of the settlers from some of the Native Americans who were still not friendly. It was the main fort on this part of the frontier
and settlers came from as far as Meadville if they knew an attack was coming.
Fort Franklin was abandoned and the soldiers moved to the smaller fort called the Garrison at Tenth
Street, near Elk. The soldiers stayed until 1803 when they left Franklin and that building was used as ajail for several years.
Venango County is unique in the history of this region in that there were four forts built here
by three different nations. West of the mountains and seperated from the earlier settlements in the East, it wasn't believed
safe for the white man until after George washington's treaty with Chief Cornplanter of the Seneca Native Americans in 1789.
Oil Creek, South of titusville, when Col. edwin L. Drake's oil well became a success. Although Seneca
Oil had been gathered in small quantities from the top of streams, this was the world's first sucessful well drilled for oil